KATHLEEN IRENE PATERKA is an Amazon bestselling author of numerous women’s fiction novels. Her popular James Bay series includes Fatty Patty, Home Fires, Lotto Lucy, and For I Have Sinned, while her recent women’s fiction novel The Other Wife is set in Chicago. Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel, a Las Vegas tale of romance and royalty, will be released by Booktrope Publishing in October 2015. Kathleen lives in Northern Michigan with her husband Steve, where she is busy working on her next James Bay novel.
1.What got you into writing / what made you sit down and actually start something? “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street” by Dr. Seuss is the first book I remember from my childhood. That book, more than anything, inspired me to want to work with words. Though I toyed with the idea of being a librarian or an English teacher, I knew what I really wanted to do was dream my life away by telling the stories inside me. When I was in high school, I read a lot of Gothic romance novels (i.e., Victoria Holt, Dorothy Eden, Daphne Du Maurier), and wanted to see if I could write one. My lame attempt took three years to finish. Rosehaven remains hidden under my bed, but I learned a lot from writing that book. It taught me the art of perseverance (an important lesson if you are a novelist).
2. What is a usual writing day like for you, how is it structured? I write every day. Mornings are when I’m most productive. I’m very structured, and tend to work best in my home office. Unlike other authors who can write anywhere (J.K. Rowling wrote reams of Harry Potter materials while riding on the train and sitting in coffee shops), I crave peace and quiet. Normally I’m at my computer by 6:30 a.m. I have a little timer which I set for two hours. Then I open up my current work-in-progress, and I’m quickly lost in a beautiful daydream. Thank God for that little timer. If I didn’t have it, I’d probably have been fired from my day job (staff writer at an American castle) long ago.
3. Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? I’ve never had writer’s block, thank goodness. Probably the closest I came was while writing my latest novel, The Other Wife. Grief is not an easy subject to write about, and The Other Wife proved the most difficult story I’ve written to date. First, I was dealing with two separate characters: Eleanor and Claire—two wives, each with their own perspective and storyline. Eleanor (wife #1) and Richard (her husband of 38+ years) were already living semi-separate lives when he died on page 1. Eleanor’s method of coping with Richard’s death also proved semi-detached; her scenes were easy to write. Claire (wife #2), was a different story. She and Richard had been married only a few years. She was left feeling betrayed and bewildered at the situation in which she suddenly found herself. With two young children to raise, Claire’s grief threatened to overwhelm her… and me, as the author. It wasn’t exactly writer’s block, but the feelings of grief I experienced for Claire were so intense that I found it difficult to continue writing. About ½ way through the book, I purposely switched from 1st person to 3rd in order to distance myself from Claire’s emotions. If I hadn’t switched POV, I doubt the book would have been finished.
4. Are you a plotter or pantser when it comes to writing a story? I am definitely a pantser. When I first begin to imagine a story, I spend a lot of time in a lovely sort of daydreamy haze which I suppose you might call ‘the pre-writing’ phase. That’s when I get to know the characters, imagine who they are, what they want, what their lives are like. By the time I finally sit down to start writing (usually six months later), I have the bare bones of the novel. I know the beginning, the end, plus a few things that happen in the middle. But I don’t use storyboards to help me along. To me, that would wipe out all the story magic. When I need help brainstorming an idea, I turn to my husband Steve. He’s the best!
5. Are you traditionally or self-published, and what was the publishing process like for you? Any advice to aspiring authors? I am an indie author of six women’s fiction novels, and co-author of one non-fiction work. When I began trying to ‘break through’ in the business about 15 years ago, I quickly discovered it wasn’t going to be an easy sell. The gatekeepers of literary success (agents and editors) were firmly entrenched, and the odds were stacked against me. Luckily, I’m stubborn. I kept at it, and wrote every day. I finished the first book, and the second, then the third. I kept writing, kept submitting, and kept receiving rejections. Meanwhile, I joined an author’s critique group, and attended monthly meetings. I became a member of a national writing organization, and attended seminars, workshops, plus national conferences. I made connections, and networked with other authors. I also met with NY editors and agents to pitch my books. Eventually, two highly respected publishing houses were very interested in two of my books (Fatty Patty and For I Have Sinned). After nearly a year’s worth of waiting, I finally heard from both editors at both houses. While the first editor and her colleagues loved For I Have Sinned, their marketing department nixed the deal because they couldn’t figure out how to sell it. That editor urged me to indie-pub the book. Around the same time, I also heard from the other editor (a senior editor of women’s fiction at one of the big 5 trade publishers in the U.S.). “Love the story,” she wrote, “and love the writing style. But after multiple read-throughs, we think it’s more suitable for the YA (young adult) audience. We suggest you rewrite it and then we’ll take another look.” But I didn’t want to rewrite the story. I’d moved on and was writing something else. Those two editorial interactions solidified my decision to embrace the world of indie publishing, and I’ve never looked back. I work with a professional editor, formatter and graphic designer, and I’ve been pleased with my success in indie-publishing. I was thrilled when Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel was picked up by Booktrope Publishing as an October 2015 release. My advice to aspiring authors: keep reading, keep writing, and never, never quit.
6. What has been your highlight since becoming a published author? There’s nothing more satisfying then when readers contact me to let me know how much they enjoyed one of my books. They’ll often mention how something in the book changed their perspective on life. As an author, writing the story and seeing it through to publication is rewarding in its own right… but to know that something you’re written has made a difference in someone’s life? That feeling is immensely gratifying and makes it all worthwhile.
7. Can you share a little of your most recent book with us? And any other books of yours, if you wish. My latest novel, The Other Wife, asks a simple question: will a husband’s betrayal lead to a woman’s revenge? Eleanor and Claire, two women from two different generations, share a challenge when their lives are forever altered by a single event — their husband Richard’s death. Eleanor was married to Richard for 38 years, while his ‘marriage’ to Claire was brief (4 years)… yet neither woman know of the other’s existence until Richard’s death, which happens on the first page. How does each of them cope when they learn the truth? And what happens when they eventually come together? How does each woman deal with The Other Wife? The inspiration for the story came from a true-life experience. Several years ago, my husband Steve was in the cardiac unit of our local hospital. It was about 5 am, and I was sitting at the end of his bed in the semi-darkness when suddenly Steve made a strange sound. At the time, I thought it was the oddest snore I’d ever heard. Turns out it was the infamous ‘death rattle’. Steve had just died. Since he was in the hospital, all the monitors tripped. They called a Code Blue and the medical team managed to resuscitate him. Steve has since had a triple by-pass and doing well. But that experience started me thinking: What if he’d been at home, asleep in our bed? Would I have thought that horrible sound was merely a loud snore? I probably would have poked him, rolled over in bed, and gone back to sleep… only to wake up the next morning and find him dead beside me. The memory of Steve’s hospital experience sparked my imagination. What happens in a woman’s life when her husband dies? And what if she discovers he’s been hiding a secret… a horrible secret that will change her life forever?
8. What audience is your book targeted for, and what genre does it come under? I write women’s fiction, which differs from other ‘women’s genres’ (such as romance, chick lit, etc.) in the respect that women’s fiction is about the emotional journey of the hero/heroine in dealing with a particular issue in their life. Romance may / may not be contained within the plot, and the story does not necessarily include a happy ending. In my most recent novel, The Other Wife, the issue is specifically how each woman copes with the death of a man she thought was her husband, and how she handles his betrayal.
9. Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time? Like most other authors, my favorite pastime involves indulging myself in a good book. You learn a lot about the craft of writing by reading other authors’ works. Favorite reading spot? My front porch. I also love going to the movies (drama! romance!), plus swimming laps at our local community pool. The pool is where I came up with the idea behind my first novel, Fatty Patty. The first scene from the book takes place at the pool.
10. What tip would you give to new authors when trying to build a fan-base / get followers and market their books? (What to do and what not to do.) First, write a great book. A book that will stick with readers; a book that will convince them that you are now their #1 favorite author. Once you finish the book, don’t work so hard to ‘sell’ the book. Rather, work on ‘selling yourself’. Build and nurture connections with your readers. They are your fan base, and they are very important. Interact with them on social media. Open up your heart, and make them a part of your world. Once they’re firmly behind you, engage with them. Ask them for help. Encourage them to spread the word about your books; to join your street team; to be part of your author network. Your readers and the word-of-mouth advertising that they can provide will ultimately prove more valuable than any amount of money you can sink into advertising.
Your novel Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel is about a family-owned wedding chapel in Las Vegas. Why did you decide to write the book? I love romance and royalty, and I love Las Vegas. So when I decided to write a book about weddings, I couldn’t think of a better setting for it than Las Vegas. It’s a unique town, and my husband Steve and I love visiting. It’s always fun driving down Las Vegas Blvd, which makes up the famous Strip. For our 20th wedding anniversary, Steve and I renewed our vows at the Little White Wedding Chapel. There are lots of chapels on the Strip. Some are open 24/7, and some even do drive-in weddings. I don’t gamble, but I do love to people watch, and Las Vegas is a great town for people-watching. It’s not hard to figure out who’s there to get married. Once we saw a bride and groom being married by Elvis under the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. Another time we spotted a just-married couple outside Caesar’s Place. Dressed in shorts, the girl had a tiny veil on her head and wore an “I’m the Bride!” t-shirt. Her husband sported a matching “I’m the Groom!” t-shirt. They were weaving along the sidewalk, both of them with large plastic glasses in hand. It’s legal to have an open container and consume alcohol on the Strip, and obviously the two of them had been celebrating. But not all Vegas brides and grooms are publicly drunk or being married in a ceremony performed by Elvis. It’s also common to see brides in gorgeous gowns and grooms in tuxes emerging from gleaming stretch limos. Vegas is a town where anything can happen… and usually does. Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at a Vegas wedding chapel. The Royal Wedding Chapel of Las Vegas is a place where dreams come true… and are just as easily destroyed.
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